After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and subsequent protests that swept across the country, President Donald Trump repeatedly mentioned the need for "Law and order," Use the worn phrase as if it were a word with a single, natural meaning.
In the 1960s – a time of civil rights and protests against the Vietnam War – criminologist Jerome Skolnick argued that law and order are neither the same nor complementary. For Skolnick, law and order conflict, and always will be, in democratic societies like the United States. This is a major problem with policing.
We call on the police to maintain order, but we do so under the rule of law, which emphasizes the rights of citizens – such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to assemble and the right to protest. There is no such problem in totalitarian countries like North Korea and China. In these societies it is "Rule of law" does not exist, and the police can be as persistent and violent as is necessary to maintain order, the basic goal of totalitarian regimes.
If Skolnick is correct in his interpretation of law and order, how is it that some police forces in this country are drifting (or making a more dramatic and conscious shift) to maintaining order at the expense of the rule of law? A key factor is a police subculture that, under certain circumstances, encourages, tolerates, or even demands that the police use excessive force.
The Christopher Commission – the investigative body that critically examined the Los Angeles Police Department after the 1991 Rodney King beatings that sparked nationwide protests and riots – found that officers who dealt with brutality were lenient at command level as their behavior the department was not injured "Internal code of ethics." Anthony Bouza, a 24-year-old veteran of the New York City Police Department and commander of a district in the Bronx, has suggested that in some departments "Cops develop the feeling that they can exercise power without the risk of being called … strictly considering their use."
The NYPD (1992) Commission for Investigation into Police Corruption Allegations and Anti-Corruption Procedures found that willingness to abuse individuals who questioned the police agency is a way for officers to show that they are tough police officers to whom their colleagues can trust. The Commission's report states: "Brutality, like other forms of misconduct, therefore sometimes serves as an initiation rite in aspects of police culture."
In what you called it "Dirty Harry problem" So named after the factual detective from San Francisco, who became famous through the actor Clint Eastwood, some officials use it "Dirty means" such as intimidation, violence or even physical torture when dealing with people who they consider guilty.
The NYPD Corruption Investigation Commission (see above) said: “The officials also told us that it was not uncommon to use unnecessary force to administer an official's own judiciary: a night stick on the ribs, a fist on the head, to demonstrate who was responsible for the criminal streets to whom they patrolled and imposed sanctions on those who "deserved" as determined officers, not juries. " A Bronx police officer informed the commission that he had been called "the mechanic" because he's routine "People voted" – Police slang for beating people up.
During the weeks of protest after George Floyd's murder, police in Minneapolis and other cities were heavily criticized for being too eager to use violence, even when physical violence was not required or at least not the first (or best) alternative in a situation use.
In a recent statement, James Comey, a former FBI director and deputy attorney general, said that law enforcement compliance is under pressure "Out of the ordinary" It makes sense to notice this because police officers are often interdependent for their lives. In addition, the belief that much of society hates law enforcement makes the police subculture particularly strong, as perceiving an outside threat almost always increases solidarity within the group – one "we against them" Worldview.
Comey outlines his concern about a law enforcement subculture that the police regard as such "Warriors are the last line of defense in the battle between order and chaos." If Comey is right about warlike thinking among some police officers, Defense Secretary Mark Esper states that we are "Must dominate the battlefield" and President Trump, who submits a tweet comparing protesters to terrorists, only reinforces this perspective and continues to drive a wedge between the police and many people in communities they swear by "Protect and serve."
According to Comey, factors contributing to police violence include bad cops moving to other departments, a culture of lying "lots" Forces, the overuse of SWAT and the poor physical fitness of some officers "This quickly turns all encounters into weapons and other tools." Regarding lies, the police, who are less than truthful at all stages of an investigation and on the witness stand, are referred to in some departments "Testilying."
It is not surprising that so many African Americans and police officers see themselves as enemies. African Americans have experienced 400 years of racism, including nearly 250 years of legal slavery, since the early 17th century, when the United States was a British colony. The police have not created economic, political and social inequality in this country, but have been given responsibility for maintaining order under the conditions of the rule of law in a society with ongoing racist tensions that sporadically erupt in violence. (Beginning with the period of post-civil war reconstruction – 1865-1877 – African Americans were the vast majority of victims of racist violence).
Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, reports on how George Floyd died "No police academy known to us teaches a policeman to use his knee, put it on his neck … because it can affect breathing and carotid artery … When the police watch this video, they are shocked. This tactic has become applied." The video of the incident shows that Floyd has stopped responding in the last three minutes when Officer Chauvin choked him.
Was officer Derek Chauvin a "bad apple" in an otherwise rule-of-law department, or was he just another bad apple in a thoroughly rotten bushel, a police force that stands above the rule of law? Have some (many, or most?) Police authorities moved from a constitutional perspective to maintaining social order at all costs? If so, was this shift primarily at the expense of the colored and the poor? Could George Floyd murder take place in purely white, affluent areas? Will Floyd's death result in a meaningful police reform, or will it be normal police business after the protests?
George J. Bryjak lives in Bloomingdale and is retired after 24 years of teaching sociology at the University of San Diego. A list of sources will accompany Part 2 of this article.
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